In today’s ‘How to Cook Chicken Thighs in an Air Fryer’, we’re roasting them, frying them, making them juicy and sticky, and many more.
The Air Fryer Does More Than Frying
We believe it’s pretty clear by now: an air fryer is just a convection oven, with a built-in fan blowing from the top. It does pretty much everything an oven can, from baking pies, cooking casseroles, and making curries and soups, to roasting whole chickens. It even does a better job simply because the fan really helps to speed up everything.
What we’re about to show you are six ways to cook chicken thighs. We’re roasting them, frying them, cooking them with veggies, cooking them in a sauce, making them juicy and sticky, and finally, giving them a super crispy skin. You might only need some foil, salt, vinegar, and a brush.
But before we get to that, let’s all agree on one thing: the thighs must be thawed first.
Why Thawing Is a Must
For sure, you can get all sorts of instructions on how to cook a chicken thigh from frozen, but there’s not much you can do with it. You can’t roast on high heat or the inside will be raw. You can’t make sticky thighs, since so much moisture will come out that the sauce can’t thicken on its own. You can’t cook veggies simultaneously, because the meat now requires more time to cook.
So unless you have no other choice, we suggest you follow this article’s instructions to air-fry frozen chicken thighs. The methods in today’s article cook with thawed chicken thighs only.
The proper way to thaw the meat would be to move it from the freezer to the fridge section the night before. If you haven’t, wrap the frozen meat in plastic wrap and let it sit in a container with your tap running water down onto it for about half an hour. The second way is pretty bothersome (and wasteful of water!), so we suggest treating it as a last resort only.
Six Ways to Cook Chicken Thighs in the Air Fryer
Bread the thighs nicely, spray them with some oil, and cook twice: first time for 20 minutes at 325°F, second time for 10 minutes at 350°F, flipping halfway through. We usually bread the meat by first coating it in all-purpose flour, then beaten eggs, and finally a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, and seasonings. What turns out will
Before breading, give them a rinse to rid any residual meat juices, then pat them dry with a paper towel. You can also double-coat to assure crispiness by coating them in the eggs and breadcrumbs twice.
To roast the thighs, simply rub them with your favorite spice mix, then cook for 30 minutes at 350°F. If they’re not golden yet, cook for 5-7 more minutes.
3. Making Sticky Thighs
To make them sticky, season them not with spices, but with a marinade that is well-seasoned and contains some form of sugar. Our favorite go-to is ketchup, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, honey, and mustard—or any BBQ sauce you fancy.
The marinade must be thick enough to cling onto the thighs, so if yours isn’t, thicken it with some cornstarch before marinating. Cook them just like how you’d roast them.
4. Cooking Them With a Sauce
For this you’ll need either a baking tray that fits the frying basket, or some foil to line the basket with. Marinate your chicken for about 30 minutes, roast it skin-side up for 20 minutes at 350°F, then add the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. The sauce should be bubbling, and the top will be super sticky as well.
Assure that your marinade has some form of thickening agent in it or the sauce won’t have that silky consistency. Just 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per 2 cups of sauce would do.
5. Cooking Them With Veggies
If the veggies cook quickly, such as onions, bell peppers, green beans, etc., roast your chicken like instructed, then add these veggies in at the 10th minute. Of course, season them to your liking—we just toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some thyme or oregano.
You want to cut them into small pieces so they can cook along with the thighs. For potatoes (or thick root vegetables such as beetroots), we cut them into wedges as big as two finger segments. If you prefer large chunks, we suggest you steam/boil/microwave them in advance so they’re cooked thoroughly.
6. Making the Skin Crispy
This method requires you to cook the meat part and the skin part differently.
First, rub the meat part with some spices, and with a brush, apply a thin layer of white vinegar onto the skin. Use foil to cover the thigh meat so that only the skin is exposed. Put the whole thing into the air fryer, and cook at 325°F for 20 minutes. The idea is to draw out and evaporate as much moisture as possible from the skin, and the vinegar helps to speed up the process.
At this stage the meat should be partially cooked and juicy while the skin is nicely dry. Brush the skin with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt, then cook for 7-10 minutes on high heat (375°F). Pull them out and carefully remove the foil, because there’s plenty of meat juice, and the thigh is ready.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.